Suzannah from the FLIP Network team attended the NLPN Digital Skills event that took place in Manchester on the 30th January. The NLPN (New Library Professionals Network) was set up by a group of MMU LIS students in 2012. As well a successful blog and Twitter, they run a couple of events a year aimed at new LIS professionals. The focus of this event was digital skills, an increasingly important skill set for any LIS professional.
Michelle Maden – LIHNN Literature Searching MOOC
The first presentation of the day came from Michelle Maden, who developed the LIHNN Literature Searching MOOC that ran from October to December. Michelle gave us an overview of the MOOC itself, and some insight into the development of the MOOC.
Michelle reported that there was little training available to health librarians, and the training that did exist was often in London making it inaccessible for those based in other parts of the country. Michelle received funding from LIHNN, a network for health library services in the North West, to develop training for health librarians that would not rest on the ability to travel to London. Her solution to this was to create a MOOC which would be free, could be done from work or home, and at the participant’s own pace.
Literature searching is a large part of the service of most health libraries provide, and the way literature searches are conducted in a health context is fairly specialised. Before putting together the MOOC Michelle surveyed health librarians and found that many of them had not felt prepared for literature searching when they first started working in health, and a number still had questions about literature searching.
The MOOC was aimed at health librarians working in NHS England, but Michelle reported that librarians working in a number of sectors from across the world had signed up for the MOOC. There were several people at the event, myself included, who were not NHS librarians but had participated and found it useful; the skills taught by the MOOC are highly transferable. Michelle also told us that a number of people had used the MOOC to inform their own teaching.
The completion rate for MOOCs is generally around 10%, the LIHNN MOOC had a completion rate of 50%, Michelle partly credits this with the need to fill out the feedback form (thereby completing the course) in order to obtain a certificate, although I would add that it is also a testament to the quality of the MOOC.
Support for the MOOC has now ended, but the MOOC is still open if you want to try it. I would recommend it to anyone interested in health librarianship, improving their search skills, or interested in delivering online information literacy training.
After lunch there were four short presentations by new professionals. First up was Rachel Davies who set up a research support service at Leeds Trinity University. Leeds Trinity is a small, new university with only a handful of researchers and students on postgraduate research courses. The library had provided some research support before Rachel started, but it was done on an informal basis. Rachel organised workshops, a series of public talks, staff training, book displays and a survey to promote the service with varying degrees of success. She also spoke more generally about setting up a new service, or moving into a field you’ve not worked in before. Rachel said that you shouldn’t be intimidated by the challenge (we all have to start somewhere!), look to identify the gaps in your knowledge and learn from those around you.
The next presentation was from Amy Cross-Menzies. Amy used her christmas holidays to build a LibraryBox using a Raspberry Pi. LibraryBoxes are devices with wifi capabilities that allow for offline file sharing. Amy is yet to use hers in a library context, but gave some examples of how it might be used. You can find out more about LibraryBox here.
Katie Nicholas spoke about the fantastic eBook Matrix website. There are a number of eBook providers available for libraries to chose from and it can be very time consuming to compare these providers. eBook Matrix does just this, comparing a growing number of eBook providers in terms of price, usability, interface, accessibility and more. eBook Matrix was developed with health libraries in mind, but would be useful to any smaller library looking at eBook providers.
The final short presentation of the day was from Rosie Higman and Emily Wheeler, two of the organisers of LISDIS. LIS dissertations can often be forgotten once they’ve been handed in, and the LISDIS team wanted to create a platform to showcase this research. The feedback that the team received from the conference was excellent. It was particularly useful for current LIS students who are thinking about their dissertation topic. They also gave us the exciting news that LISDIS will be running again in 2016. You can read FLIP’s write up of LISDIS 2015 here.
Emily Hopkins – Introduction to Coding
After a short break we started the final session of the day, an introduction to coding in Python with Emily Hopkins. Python is a basic coding language that Emily said was ideal for beginners. We spent most of the session working through the Python tutorial on Codecademy, with Emily on hand to answer any questions we had along the way. The tutorial was fairly easy to follow, and it was good at explain what you should be doing, but not why you’d want to do it. Emily more than made up for this, and was great at providing context for the practical applications of the individual elements of code we were learning. If you are interested in learning to code Emily recommends finding a local group to join such as Manchester Girl Geeks or Code Up Manchester.
This was the first NLPN event that I have been able to attend and overall I thought it was excellent. I’ve been to a medium sized library conference before and it can be a little overwhelming, particularly when everyone else in the room seems to have far more experience than you. This event was relatively small (25-30 people) and the atmosphere was really friendly and relaxed. I also really enjoyed having the opportunity to talk to my fellow attendees, most of whom were either fairly recent LIS graduates or current students. Thanks to the NLPN team for a great day!